The title of this article sounds conspiratorial. However, it is not an inaccurate description of the relationship between the mass media, government agencies and large corporations on how they collaborate to influence public thought.
To begin, consider the comparison of media coverage of the Syrian Civil War versus the Colombian Civil War. Anybody who follows the news semi-regularly could tell you about the war in Syria, about the conflict between the rebels and the government, the proxy war, etc.
Now turn to Colombia. How many times have you heard about the Colombian Civil War in the news? Do you have any idea what the conflict is about? How many people have died? How many people have been forcibly displaced?
It turns out, the war in Colombia is something that we are not supposed to know about. It’s a war between communist guerillas, the state, right wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers. Since 2000, over 6,000,000 people have been violently removed from their homes and their land. Over 11,000,000 hectares of land have been stolen from displaced peasants and are now in the hands of paramilitaries, drug traffickers, and U.S. corporations. The U.S. government arms and actively supports roving bands of genocidal paramilitary forces whose violence is responsible for roughly 80 percent of the 177,000 civilian deaths throughout the war.
Why is it that practically nobody in the U.S. knows about this war? Colombia is a mere three-hour plane ride from Miami. Should the media not be concerned with the immense scale of suffering and agony of a nationwide civil war occurring so close to home?
Although the media in our country are allegedly free, they engage in self-censorship that falls exactly in line with the interests of the U.S. government and large corporations. In Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky flushes out this relationship through what he calls a “propaganda model” to explain the media’s behavior.
The first element of the model is ownership structure. Media corporations are owned largely by financial industry giants, consultants, lawyers and other individuals with direct ties to the elite financial and business class with powerful economic and political interests elsewhere. The U.S. has invested a lot of money in Colombia.
The second element is advertising. Since media corporations cannot sustain their businesses without ad revenue, they must bend to the will of their corporate clients by withholding problematic information from the public so as not to lose their primary source of revenue. The lack of reporting on the Colombian War makes sense in this case, considering the fact that U.S. corporations such as Chiquita Banana, Coca-Cola and Drummond Coal have all directly paid the paramilitaries to “protect their investments” in Colombia (that means torture and kill innocents).
The third element is the sourcing of information. There are large departments within the organizational structures of large corporations and government bodies whose sole purpose is talking to the media: public relations. From these departments the media obtain their information about what is happening in the business world and in the world of international affairs. Of course journalists would never hear about Colombia from these PR departments, they are controlled by the very organizations who are committing the atrocities.
The final element of the model is flak. Should the media report on something unfavorable to U.S. government or business interests, they are reprimanded. There is insufficient space in this article to describe it further, but there is ample evidence for this claim.
As of 2018, there are six corporations that own 90 percent of the media.
Consider the implications of this article. There are things that the government and large corporations are hiding from all of us. What else are we not supposed to know about?
Dylan Pederson, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at DPederson18@wooster.edu.